Fathers show love for their children in their own way. For most of my friends, it’s helping them move house, hang pictures, check their tires, mowing the lawn. For me, it’s books in the mail (Hitchens is always a favorite), phone calls, text messages, and FaceTimes. It’s sometimes as innocuous as checking the surf conditions which says “I love you, surfing makes you happy, I need you to be okay” in a less invasive fashion. He sends pictures of the beloved cat (known as my sister, because my parents are like that) wearing a hoodie, or smelling a flower. It’s a thousand little ways of showing I’m on his mind, for no reason other than he’s my dad and I’m his daughter.
During the pandemic, I became aware of exactly how lucky I am to have a father who showed his children love through communication. While fathers of adult daughters everywhere stepped up to the challenge of learning a new way to show their love, for me it was one thing that never changed while the world was imploding. Communication has always been our thing, our family communicates incessantly and I would be at a loss without that connection although I haven’t lived in the same city as my parents since my late teens.
I’m not sure whether he deliberately decided to build a communicative relationship, whether it was the influence of my wonderful mother, or it was borne out of necessity as he traveled more and more for work as I grew up. He definitely didn’t teach me many of the “regular” dad stuff my friends grew up with; that’s a process I’m still learning in my thirties from friends and Youtube — I recently learned how to check the oil in my car!
But while my dad never taught me how to change the oil in my car, he did teach me about social injustice and prejudice at the dinner table. We talked about what we would say to aliens if they landed on our planet and wanted a cheat-sheet on human beings. We talked about the complexity of the endless Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the actions of colonizing nations that drew arbitrary borders causing similar enduring conflicts all over the world. We talked about the apartheid in South Africa (where he grew up) and how he asked big, public questions of the government, leading to him eventually having to sneak out of the country lest he was “disappeared” by a government intent on preserving institutionalized segregation. I was 8, I was 10, I was 6, I was 19, I was all ages and he never shied away from a topic as too difficult or uncomfortable to talk about.
By the time I was a teenager, my father was regularly working overseas. The communication didn’t stop. Before the internet, he would send long faxes with bad drawings detailing his days; we bought reams of paper and ink for his tales. Long phone calls leading to ridiculous phone bills. But his relationship with his children was based on communication, so he continued to communicate at any cost. Brave man, trying to make a teenage girl talk on the phone. Still, he persisted through smart-ass retorts and my assurance that somehow, at the age of 15, I knew it all.
I moved to New York for work at 22. Then transferred to Hong Kong. Spent some time in London. Melbourne. Dallas. My brother and his wife were surf photographers at a resort on a remote Indonesian Island. Worked at a ski resort in Japan, then desk jobs in central London. Road tripped through Europe and North Africa. Now they’re building their photography business in a surf town in Australia. My parents were working in Da Nang, Hong Kong, they’re finally back home. We all kept talking. We all keep communicating. Now, my brother’s kids call me before school and I get to see their little vegemite toast smiles as his 6-year-old tells me about the pajamas she picked out for a special school theme day. Lesson from a father, passed onto a son.
So, this Father’s Day is no different for me, although for many it’s one of their first not being able to physically see their father. For us, it’s another FaceTime, it’s another discussion on race and politics and the differences and similarities between what’s happening in Australia vs the U.S. An update on my sister-cat’s diabetes and arthritis. Maybe I’ll get a picture of the sunrise before he goes for a surf. And when he comes home there’ll be a little package from me, a reminder for him to stay grounded and take care of himself when he’s busy thinking about how to care for his family and the world.
Edie George is an Australian currently living in Dallas, TX. She has been working in advertising and marketing as a copywriter and producer for 15 years. Recently, she opened her own digital production company, The Small Waves; it is in forced hiatus while the coronavirus halts the creative work of the world. She’s using the extra time to enjoy wake-surfing, participating in protests, and FaceTiming her dad.
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Wishing all a wonderful celebration of fathers - wherever they may be, they will always be in our hearts.
Take care and stay safe! With love and good Chi,